(Adds analyst comment, detail, background)
CAIRO, March 31 (Reuters) - Egypt will keep 95-octane petrol at 7.75 Egyptian pounds ($0.4485) per litre through the second quarter of 2019 as it links the cost to international fuel prices for the first time, the petroleum ministry said in a statement.
Egypt had committed to the indexation mechanism as part of reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund programme and designed to increase energy prices to match those on international markets.
A committee decided to hold 95-octane petrol’s price based on the Egyptian pound’s appreciation against the dollar and global prices of Brent crude, the ministry said.
“There has been an uptick in inflation and the government has just issued a decision to increase the minimum state salaries,” said Angus Blair, chief operating officer at Cairo-based investment bank Pharos Holding.
“It may have decided to defer any increase until inflation comes off a little further, as inflation is on a longer-term downtrend, and the state employees are paid the new salaries. I would now expect fuel price increases in July or August.”
As part of the IMF deal, Egypt has been pushing ahead with tough economic reforms that have strained the budgets of tens of millions of citizens.
They included the introduction of a value-added tax, a currency devaluation and deep cuts to energy subsidies that included a hike in petrol prices of up to 50 percent last June.
About $10 billion has now been disbursed under the deal, with a final tranche due after another review in June.
The petroleum minister had said in January that Egypt would implement the automatic price indexation mechanism on 95-octane petrol starting in April.
The IMF cited those promised changes in a statement last month, saying: “The authorities remain committed to reaching cost recovery for most fuel products by mid-2019 and implementing automatic fuel price indexation.” ($1 = 17.2800 Egyptian pounds) (Reporting by Yousef Saba and Patrick Werr; Editing by Dale Hudson)